Republicans, Gays And Larry Craig: Is The GOP Anti-Gay?

Some final thoughts on the debate about Larry Craig. What follows is based on the presumption that Sen. Craig was doing in the bathroom what the police believed he was doing.

** It seems as that Sen. Craig would rather risk a lifetime -- literally, a lifetime -- of national ridicule and mockery, of whispers that his marriage is a sham, of suspicion every time he ducks into a Capitol Hill bathroom, than he would engage in an intense, scary, period of introspection.

** Are liberals hypocrites for conveniently pulling down their public policy v. private morality curtain when it comes to conservative sins? The premise is that a workable boundary between private morality and public policy can be found somewhere. I'm not so sure. And I'm pretty sure that most gay people would reject the idea that their sexual orientation is somehow an exclusively personal, private subject, especially when they cannot adopt children, can be fired from their jobs, can't visit loved ones in hospitals in some cases, etc.

** Patrick Ruffini has a point. It's absurd to label every politician or person who opposes gay marriage and gays in the military as anti-gay. Many aren't. That doesn't mean they're pro-gay -- it's just that for them the issue of homosexuality is not important. They may be uncomfortable with it, but they oppose discrimination more than they oppose homosexuality, or they have other values that conflict with the idea that it's wise to operationalize anti-gay sentiment into public policy.

** But Ruffini must also recognize: a large and influential segment of the Republican Party's activist base is anti-gay. Not anti-gay rights -- though, of course, they're "anti" that too -- but anti-gay, meaning that that homosexuality itself is the problem; that the gay rights movement represents the apex of libertinism; that homosexuality is dangerous; that it is anti-Biblical; that it deserves the shame of the culture and not the sanction of the government.

Somehow, calling a segment of the Republican base "anti-gay" is controversial; I mean it descriptively. A large segment of the Democratic base approves of, tolerates, and favors government recognition of homosexuality. (Somehow, I cannot get my brain around the idea of separating "gay rights" from "being gay.")

The more-than hundred million Americans who disapprove of homosexuality -- i.e., "gay" -- are more likely than not Republicans. (I am eliding, deliberately, over the Christian "love the sinner/hate the sin" dichotomy, which brings up extraordinarily complex theological and personal issues that do not directly pertain to politics. Ross Douthat might oblige.)

** It would be logically absurd (again) to call the Republican Party itself "anti-gay" because a large part of its base is. But it is true that "family values" as a concept has been defined by conservative political actors within the Republican Party to incorporate, among many other things, an anti-gay impulse that is prevalent in the Republican base.

** Many, many Republicans inside the Beltway like Ruffini who privately tolerate homosexuality and who do not believe that it is sinful. This disjuncture has been a source of tension within the party.

As to the relationship between Republicans and gays, I've written about it here, and Dale Carpenter has a prediction that rings true:

For the GOP, this alloy of public rejection and private acceptance means enduring more of these periodic public morality convulsions. How to end it? The private acceptance will continue and, I predict, become even more prevalent as young conservatives comfortable around gay people take over. There will be no purging the party of gays. There is no practical way to purge them, and even if there were, most Republicans would be personally repulsed by such an effort.